Durban – Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer says he has faced some of his toughest days in the job recently, leading up to the announcement of his team to play Wales in the first of two Tests in Durban on Saturday.
“It’s definitely been the toughest few weeks for me,” Meyer said in Durban on Wednesday.
“You plan for five months, you can’t wait to get going and then suddenly you get curve balls from all over.
“It’s been tough ... losing some quality centres within the space of a week or a week and half.”
The South African camp was hit by the news of Francois Steyn’s withdrawal from the squad late on Tuesday. They were also without regular captain Jean de Villiers, who was ruled out of the June Tests through injury, just days before a national training camp late last month.
Meyer said he had a good relationship with Steyn and accepted his decision to make himself unavailable for the Springboks.
“Obviously I’m a little bit disappointed that he’s not available, but I respect his decision. I just want to wish him and his family the best of luck for their future.
“People always say the third year is difficult. You always think it’s going to be smooth sailing but that’s the challenge of the team. I truly believe we have experienced players and you’ve just got to get on with it.”
Announcing his latest team, Meyer named winger Cornal Hendricks as one of two debutants in his match-day 23.
Cheetahs teammate and lock Lood de Jager would play off the bench.
There were three changes from the side which beat a World XV 47-13 in Cape Town last weekend. The biggest surprise was the inclusion of France-based prop Gurthro Steenkamp, who was picked ahead of Tendai Mtawarira.
Steenkamp would earn his 50th cap at Kings Park on Saturday.
Bulls centre Jan Serfontein replaced Steyn in the midfield, while Fourie du Preez was named ahead of Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf.
Meyer said his decision to leave out Mtawarira for Steenkamp was merely rotational.
“Beast has a played a lot of rugby and really done well,” Meyer said.
“The great thing about this team is we play for each other and I had a discussion with Beast, who was very understanding. There wasn’t a lot to choose between them.”
As for Serfontein, who would make his first start in the green and gold after playing nine times of the bench, Meyer said he had groomed him and wanted to give him a chance.
It’s a great opportunity for him and it will be a hell of a test against Jamie Roberts, who is one of the best centres in the world.”
South Africa: Juan de Jongh (chest infection), Siya Kolisi (flu), Oupa Mohoje (flu) and Marnitz Boshoff (ankle) were not considered for selection.
Willie le Roux; Cornal Hendricks, JP Pietersen, Jan Serfontein, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw; Victor Matfield (captain), Bakkies Botha; Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Tendai Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen, Lood de Jager, Schalk Burger, Ruan Pienaar, Johan Goosen, Lwazi Mvovo – Sapa